Jason Ouellette

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since Dec 09, 2016
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Recent posts by Jason Ouellette

There's a lot of beaked hazel growing in the under story here in Dayton Maine. I keep trying to collect seeds but the squirrels harvest them while I'm waiting for them to ripen. Most bushes only have a couple nuts on them, possibly because they're in full shade underneath red maples and oak trees. I'll try to grab some again next year.
2 years ago
I actually find the physical activity in the garden/mini-wannabe-farm helps my back. My back is worse when I'm sitting for long periods of time. I try to do a variety of movements on a given day. So rather than shoveling all my compost one day, and weeding the whole garden the next, I'll shovel a couple loads, then weed for a while, and then do different stuff the next day if I'm able. I've had back pain as long as I can remember, though mine is a bit atypical in that it's in my middle/upper back. It's from disc degeneration, though it's been really stable over my life, maybe because my ribs hold that part of my spine together fairly well, but the pain is almost always there to some extent.

I'm also really focusing on tree crops - mostly chestnuts and hazelnuts. Once they're established, I'll get food without having to plant as much every year.

I also enjoy learning about herbs that can help with what ails me. My back pain has brought me closer to Solomon's seal, cayenne, turmeric, and mostly cbd cannabis.

The hardest time on my back is the winter, because I'm mostly inside and am less active (and probably low on vitamin D, working on that). Shoveling snow seems to take a lot more effort than shoveling compost somehow, and we just got 19 inches of it!
2 years ago
Hi Permies, just wanted to give a brief update:

The comfrey is still growing in the three buckets. I've pulled one of them out, cut the roots and put the pieces in potting soil to propagate it so I can try more buckets. I would like to try one with clay below the wood chips, which I've read comfrey enjoys and I think would be good for soaking up liquid (I have mostly sandy soil here but local friends have offered me some of their clay). The red mangrove doesn't seem to like the conditions. The oats and corn are still alive, it's hard to say how they are doing because my cat really likes chewing on the oats (and trampling the comfrey). I'm also sprouting some rice which I'll try in a bucket once they're going. The strawberry plants look good so far. I don't think their roots go down into the pee layer, but borage I hear is a great companion to strawberries and comfrey is borage's cousin, so maybe they'll be buddies.

If I had them available, I'd start with larger crown cuttings instead of tiny plants from root cuttings. I think then it could process both more liquid and more nutrients. The plants are still small but light is short this time of year and they started pretty tiny.

As I may be selling my house sometime soon to downsize, I'm really treasuring these buckets. I feel like I can build and hold on to some fertility which I can bring with me wherever I'm going. The comfrey plants cheer me up with their relentless growth and perkiness. I'd like to get into composting humanure, but as I may be moving within a year it seems like it might not be a good idea to start a pile outside, I am working on trying a bucket with humanure, some layer(s) of odor-preventing material, and a comfrey plant atop the humanure. I'm in the bucket filling stage right now, using coco coir on top of deposits. When I move, I can cut the comfrey, put the covers on the buckets and stack them to bring them wherever my next place is.

I'm curious to try out willows. We had a severe drought this past year and I probably lost most of the willows I planted last spring (just couldn't keep up on watering), but I at least have some pussy willow I can try. Eventually a smaller, native willow adapted to re-sprouting after being cut that's useful for medicine and/or crafting would be wonderful.
3 years ago
Rice is a really interesting idea. People are starting to grow rice in Maine, I'll try to get some locally adapted seeds. One local farm ships them in the spring but I'll keep looking. Exploring local wild areas is a great idea, I'll do that in the spring. There are lots of cattails around, I seem to remember reading about a permitted constructed wetland septic system at an eco school somewhere in the state, maybe they'll have pointers.

Bucket #1 is looking good. Comfrey is making new leaves, oats are coming up, strawberry is shiny and mangrove is grooving.

I made another bucket with a thicker absorbent layer when I found a couple more comfrey plants.
3 years ago
Thanks for the plant ideas Tracy & Roberto!

I'm going to try yarrow, it'd be good to have that plant on hand, it's supposed to be great for stopping bleeding.

I'd love to have a nice bushy rosemary plant, but I keep killing them >_< They seem to like it pretty dry, but it's worth a shot.

Linda, let me know how it goes!! I love peeing outside most of the year, but this has been a fun experiment so far and tickles my gardening bone in the winter. Comfrey is one of my favorite plants, it's just so relentless in its growing and bounces right back whenever I cut it. I was missing it, and it's nice to see it growing again

Someday, I hope even cities will collect urine and pipe it to plants, instead of into rivers! I bet plants are as grateful for our leaks as we are for their oxygen and fruits. It's a fun and easy cycle to make.
3 years ago
Starting to see new growth in the comfrey in bucket #1 since planting them. Some oat grass is sprouting as well, I planted them mostly to keep the comfrey company while they're young but the right grass might do well in a system like this. I planted some corn in the other bucket but that has not sprouted yet and I'm not sure how it'll fair growing in wood chips but that's what experiments are for.
3 years ago
Thanks Roberto!
Angelika, I poured some out because I felt I'd over-filled for what the plants can handle, but I'm hoping it can mostly work without having to pour it out, by the comfrey moving the nutrients and water into their leaves, which can then be used in the garden (or dried and stored for later). It would be easy to add a spout to the bottom to drain it though, and pouring it wasn't hard. I just gently held the wood chips at the top and tipped.
I'm having buyer's remorse with the red mangrove, I'm sure there's something smaller and more suitable to my climate that can move salt up and out, or a periodic rinse and pour/drain could remove salt, but I'm going to give it a go anyway.
I'm thinking that well rotted wood could be used instead of peat moss. Everything is frozen and covered in snow here right now but when it warms up, I'm going out into the woods to get some and try.
3 years ago
It is possible to have an essentially smell and fly-free compost bin. If it smells or has flies, add more cover material, such as sawdust, hay, or dried leaves. Pull the cover aside and pour new compost in it, then re-cover. I made my bin with 4 pallets, just make sure they aren't pressure treated, and I use leaves from the yard. Check out The Humanure Handbook. I have stood right next to humanure compost bins and not noticed any odor or flies before. You have a layer of spongy materials like leaves on the bottom, sides, and top of the kitchen scraps and compostables. These filter out the smell and bugs, and make a nice insulated aerobic but moist environment for thermophilic composting. I've read you can even add small dead animals to it. When the cats bring me a rodent present, I feed it to the compost pile now. A year of thermophilic composting will kill any pathogens, though I know some folks who compost their humanure for three years. I haven't started doing humanure composting yet but everything else goes in there and if it smells I add some leaves and the smell goes away.
3 years ago
Here's a quick pic I took. The comfrey on one of the buckets may have a little leaf burn, but I also just took them in from the cold greenhouse and transplanted them. Anyway I have poured some of the liquid out and the plants all look fairly perky.
3 years ago
Hi William,

Right now I have them in a sunny window. Since we're so close to the winter solstice, and because there's some stuff blocking the light, I've been giving the two buckets I have some supplemental light from a regular CFL in the evenings. I think they'd survive being in a greenhouse even in the cold. Once it warms up outside, probably around sap season, I'll bring most of them out onto the sunny porch and just have one or two inside to use.

Since I had over-filled them, I poured a little out from each bucket onto a hazel shrub's roots outside. The comfrey didn't seem to mind the high liquid level, but it looked like it would take a long while for it to get through it all.  I expect their ability to go through liquid will grow as they do.
3 years ago